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Three Ways to Fail at Solutions Marketing

By July 26, 2011Article

1. Suit up, shake hands, and deliver a speech about the technical superiority of your product. 2. Trot out your recent press releases about the latest upgrades and newest features. 3. Try to sound like these data points provide the quintessential business solution.
Does it work? No.
I recently met with Paul, VP of Solutions Marketing for a technology company. He told me they weren’t landing deals they had thought would be sure bets. I asked him a few probing questions and, as he told me the story, I quickly recognized the trap they had fallen into.
His company was misunderstanding what “solutions marketing” is in three fundamental ways, and as a result, their marketing approach was off target. Here’s how:

  • The wrong audience: A solution is defined in the eyes of the customer, who is very often not a technologist. They weren’t talking to the person who will benefit from their solution; they were talking about a solution to the same technical audience they’ve always spoken with.
  • The wrong focus: They were repeating the chorus “my product rocks,” which is the wrong song to sing. The focus wasn’t on the worries that keep the Business Decision Maker (BDM) up at night. Since they didn’t know the reasons for their customer’s insomnia, they were off track from the start.
  • The wrong message: Their real value prop was so hidden that even the best GPS system couldn’t find it. Touting technical merits may excite the IT staff, but the BDM doesn’t give a hoot. Their usual tactic was to leap-frog over the competition on technical issues … which then leads to bidding wars over product features and options.

Paul and I discussed how to remedy the situation as follows:

  • The right audience: Make sure you know who the technology and IT gurus are because you’ll need to know later. But the #1 priority is finding the BDMs and influencers, and connecting with them first. Determine who the customer is for your solution – and focus there.
  • The right focus: Know what the BDM’s critical issues are before you even speak with them. Perform research and interviews so you know your target customer’s care-abouts, concerns and issues almost as well as they do.
  • The right message: Focus on business-level solutions instead of technology. Saying “This product is twice as fast as the competition” invites the next five competitors to prove why their particular features are more important. Say instead, “This solution will help you get your job done better – and here’s how….” Then excite them with the ways your solution makes this true.

In summary, examine your current value props and dump them if they’re off base. Transform them into meaningful marketing solutions. Paul took this advice, led his team to recraft their marketing message and directed it to the right people. They then started experiencing more closed deals and better, longer-lasting relationships with their customers.
Glenn Gow is CEO of Crimson Consulting Group, a strategic marketing consultancy focused on B2B clients, with a particular strength in technology marketing.
This article was originally published on the Achieve Market Leadership blog and is reposted with permission. To read more articles by Glenn Gow, visit the Crimson blog.

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